Trail Maps, Trail books, Trail Atlas??

1:23 a.m. on December 7, 2011 (EST)
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I was looking through the Books, Maps, and Software, of the Navigation Tools in the Gear Reviews and was a little surprised at the lack of map books.  Namely map books put together for one complete trail.  Like the JMT, Colorado trail, PCT, and others.  

I am wondering if others on the site have used any of these books or if not what do you do for trail maps that cover a fairly large area. 

I purchased the JMT Atlas, from Blackwood Press, Eric the black and was wondering if any others had use products from him or other similar products.  The book looks straight forward and the maps seem clear, but I have never hiked the JMT so I don't really know how good it is. 

Any suggestions, and or recommendations would be great, also reference to tail books (Narratives of the trail) would be great.  And not just the JMT.


7:15 a.m. on December 7, 2011 (EST)
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The USGS 7.5' and 15' are what I typically take on my trips, and often are the best media I can find for planning purposes.  Sometimes a trail straddles quadrants, making orienting and triangulating laborious.  In such instances I'll use a CD map product, such as National Geographic TOPO!, and produce a map that places the theatre of activity center page.  I find the maps from CDs to be pixilated and harder to read in the field, however, so I resort to these only in when it aids map and compass activities.

My favorite tools for trip planning at home are the USGS national park topo maps.  An entire park on a map!  I have a sets covering all the parks I frequent.  Just spread them out on a table and scheme and dream.  Some of these maps are pretty large; the Zion and Grand Canyon wall maps will cover a table for six.  One of my favorites is the USGS table map JOHN MUIR WILDERNESS, INYO SIERRA NF, CA, a set of three table maps that cover most (if not all) of the John Muir trail.  There are also specialty map booklets published, for example I have this booklet that has much of the Sierra Nevada 15' map library shrunk to notebook size format.  It is so so as a planning tool however, inferior to using the table maps.

As far as trail guide books go there is a reference set known as Sierra North and Sierra South.  They do not specifically cover the John Muir trail, but the entire length of the journey is covered in sections, usually as part of one of the trips described originating from a proximal trailhead.  IMO the old editions of these books are superior to the current editions - I still prefer the 1980 third edition of Sierra South, even though the copy I own has lost its cover, is tattered and missing some pages. 


8:59 a.m. on December 7, 2011 (EST)
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I like using Mytopo on the internet and getting the maps sent to me.  I only use UTM for myself, and use my GPS only marking the trail head and put it back into my backpack, if I need the GPS again I'll bring it out to get my location.  I like being able to get the area that I'm going to be, and also use 1/24000, 1/25000 and 1/50000 only.  I also use National Geographic Topo software, and I like using it for trail planning. 

1:05 p.m. on December 7, 2011 (EST)
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I use USGS and USFS topo maps most often. I purchased a trail guide book before my trip in the Tetons this year, but was very disappointed with it. I was expecting a really comprehensive trail description, with lots of details about water source, trail conditions, distances between landmarks, related information, etc. It provided little better than an overview for each trail, which was quite disappointing.  It the most highly reviewed and recommended book for the Tetons, too. My brother has a book on the Cherokee National Forest, which is phenomenal, which I guess spoiled me :)

I like US Topo quite a bit, but they solely source their maps from USGS Guads, and some of those are REALLY old and do not show current roads and trails. The USGS for one of my favorite places to backpack, just accross the NC border in the Unicoi Mountians, hasn't been updated in a very long time and doesn't show mos of the trails, nor the road through that section. 

7:39 p.m. on December 7, 2011 (EST)
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My maps were individual per area of state for the appalachian trail. They were all individual maps. My guide was seperate as well and I had one by the ATc and the other was the guide book by David Miller who wrote AWOL on the Appalachian Trail.found his guide book gave me excellent references and location strip maps of towns and water sources.All my maps are USGS variations. I  also use mytopo. But I tend to get my maps from whichever org does a long trail because generally they have the best maps for their trail.  I do know Eric the Black has atlas's for Pct and Cdt as well.But the Seirra series ED mentioned are the ones advised by the I saw in their shop. North and South like ED mentioned.

10:52 a.m. on December 8, 2011 (EST)
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I have tried National Geographic TOPO, not a lot though, I did not find it very east to use.  That may be just me though.  I like paper maps and often use a company called Custom Correct, they only do the Olympics and all their maps are based on the 7 1/2 quads (I think) bit they do a great job of putting several sections together to make one map of a given area.  I also use national park/forest maps, but just for general planing, I find that they can be lacking in details sometimes.  Lately I have also been buying National Geographic Trails Illustrated maps, They have great detail and are very east to read, but none of these really are great for long thru hikes. 

I guess that was what I really was looking for information on, map books, or trail books on the long trails in the Western United States.  I have lots of web sites and trail notes on the web, but none of that is very good once your on the trail. :) 


7:08 p.m. on December 9, 2011 (EST)
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Each of the major through-hiker trails has a trail association. Some of them publish books. To take the JMT as an example, is a place to start. The classic book "Starr's Guide to the John Muir Trail" is still good after all these years. The Tom Harrison Map-Pack for the John Muir Trail has plenty of detail for hiking the trail in a set of 13 plastic map sections (8.5x11 inches in size). And, since the JMT is basically a part of the PCT, the Pacific Crest Trail Association has everything from a single fold-up map giving the overview roughly 1.5 ft x 3 ft or so to individual detailed sheets covering the whole PCT (take only a couple hundred miles worth and have the next sections mailed ahead by your re-supply family and friends - oh, wait, I think they are closing the USPS, or maybe just General Delivery, or maybe just the POs which are small, which means every one you would use as an intermediate pickup point - time for Plan B!). The PCT has a lot of info on line and in books you can get directly from them. The CDT and AT have similar sets of maps and books available.

Reason you don't find them in stores is (1) there are very few people who want to do the trails, so tiny market, (2) very much a specialty market, so it would take up too much shelf space to keep them in stock, and (3) only crazy people do such hikes, and we wouldn't want that kind of riffraff in our stores anyway. Besides which, all the long trails have changes from year to year, which would make annual revisions for such a small market prohibitive in cost. Ok, a bit of exaggeration, but the market is pretty thin. Luckily, the web makes it easy to access the information and put you in contact with the trail associations.

12:43 p.m. on December 10, 2011 (EST)
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Thanks Bill for the info, I have been checking out a lot of web sites for the JMT and the PCT.  Although, so far I have not gotten any of the maps from the sites, I guess I am a little old fashion in that I like to get my hands on something and look it over before buying it.  Oh well, at least it not a lot of money.  :) 

Buy the way had to laugh at the crazy comment, every time I bring up this whole long hike / thru hike with my family they just roll their eyes and mutter something about crazy!!  At least my son is looking forward to the Wonderland trail next summer, well see how it goes after that. :)

2:25 p.m. on December 10, 2011 (EST)
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If you look on the long distance hiking websites like WhiteBlaze (an AT site), I think you will find what you are looking for. As Bill said, there are trail specific maps and some are very detailed from what I have seen online.

I found this free one for the PCT and it is available as a download -

No idea how good it is or how easy it is to use, just did a quick Google search and found the website.

Also found this site, which I'd never seen before, with reviews of different guidebooks and it recommends the one I linked to above. The siteowner has done the hikes so I would presume he's a pretty good source for what's useful.

12:40 p.m. on December 11, 2011 (EST)
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2:28 p.m. on December 11, 2011 (EST)
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Thanks for the links Tom, Guthook blog is a interesting read and who could not love free maps!! :D 

Rob, thank you also for the link, I have tried maps like that before on line, I like the terrain features but wish the trails showed on all the different versions.  I find it hard to read the USGS and the TOPO maps on line and follow the trails.  But it's great for getting a over all look at the terrain and what you will be facing.


9:17 p.m. on December 11, 2011 (EST)
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Admin:  How can I get blessed to post links?

Thanks to Rob for mentioning Gmap4.

Wolfman - I have a link that will display the entire JMT on all the Google map views plus the MyTopo topographic maps plus the Microsoft Research (old name = Terraserver) topographic  maps.  But this site will not me give it to you!

The trail data is in a KML file posted at jmt-hiker.

The map is zoomed in with Mt Whitney at the center and the JMT is bright green.  Zoom out to see the whole JMT.

Or leave the zoom alone, shift to 'Earth' view and fly over the entire JMT in 3D - no bug bites, blisters or short rations.

To display any trail with Gmap4, repeat after me:  Google is your friend.  Simply search for a GPX, KML, KMZ of TPO file for your favorite trail.  If you can find such a file online, there is a good chance that Gmap4 can display it.

Ok, here's the  JMT map:  (linky goes here)

The Gmap4 homepage has info for new users, examples, a detailed Help file, etc.

OK, you gotta do it the hard way.  Google for Gmap4.  The first hit is the  homepage.  Download the pdf Help file.  The JMT link is on the top of p.55.

Enjoy your hikes!

Joseph, the Gmap4 guy

10:09 a.m. on December 12, 2011 (EST)
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Joseph, I missed your post back at the beginning of the year, Welcome to trailspace! 

Due to the massive amounts of spam directed upon TrailSpace, and the ever more sophisticated methods used to do so, TrailSpace has put in place a few things to hinder drive-by spammers and spam-bots. One of those measures is all members must reach a certain number of posts over a certain period of time before being granted Link posting privileges.

Thanks for sharing your knowledge and info about your mapping program, you'll quickly pass the link posting threshold by engaging in conversations here. 

2:24 p.m. on December 12, 2011 (EST)
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hey joseph

Your programs mmoveing forward even more. Great. How can anyone download trail maps and gmap4?


3:09 p.m. on December 12, 2011 (EST)
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Here is the map location -,-118.292112&t=t2&z=14

I don't have the link at jmt-hiker for the kml file yet, but will post it here when I do get it.

Here is the kml file

Now my next step is to get my own Gmap4 (not that I lack for kml display tools already).

5:47 p.m. on December 12, 2011 (EST)
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Thanks for the kind words and the link help from Bill.

You do not 'download' Gmap4 any more than you 'download' Google Maps.  Gmap4 lives in the cloud.  (Well, OK - it lives on my server).

To run Gmap4 you just enter a Gmap4 URL in your browser bar and hit enter.

If you go to the Gmap4 homepage and flip through the examples then you will quickly see  how URLs are built.

You also do not need to download data files.  When you build  your  Gmap4 URL you use  the q= parameter to tell Gmap4 where the data file is located.

2:49 a.m. on December 13, 2011 (EST)
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Here's a quick map I threw together on Gmap4.  It's not elaborate as the JMT map, which is a nice one BTW.  It is just my track when I ascended Wheeler Peak.  I'm going to have to work with this Gmap4 program more.  Currently, I have my hikes saved on Google Earth and Vantage Point (which is free software from Magellan) but I can't really share them with anyone online.

Click this

7:52 a.m. on December 13, 2011 (EST)
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Hey Rob,

Looks like a nice trip.

Here's an idea for you to consider.

You can export a KML file from Google Earth and save it on your  local drive.  Then open that file with Notepad++ (or a similar editor) and copy just the coordinates for your track.  Ignore everything else.

Next, look at the Appendix of the Gmap4 Help file.  Copy the first demo KML file and open it in Notepad++

Paste your coords over the coords in the demo file.

Give your map a name in the Document--name tag near the top.

The last step is to put your file online.  Yes, you could import it into Google Maps.  The disadvantage of doing that is Google adds all kinds of tags to your KML file which create clutter without doing anything.  If you then export your file back  out of  Google Maps it will include all that junk.

A better solution is to place your  files online at Google Sites.

9:07 a.m. on December 13, 2011 (EST)
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Rob, nice little walk up the side of a mountain!  :)

Joseph, really cool system, so if I understand this all correctly;

1) You are not the one making the maps, you just provide a platform to display and share them on?  (I realize that you have made lots of actual maps though)

2) The "Trail" information is from GPSR information, or some type of like info.  (What I am asking is you can't just follow a existing "Trail"?)

3) Notes, pictures, etc. are added by individuals creating the maps.

So is their a class on how to do all this??  :D  I guess I need to get a GPSR first.   Any help or info on the process would be great.  Also, if someone is not using a GPSR device can you add notes to a map with or that info, by just pointing at a spot for example?

One other thing, is their a way to convert the information into a elevation profile?

And that's a really cool JMT map! 


10:08 a.m. on December 13, 2011 (EST)
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1. Correct.  Gmap4 is an online tool that can either (A) display a data file or (B) display a map based just on a latitude longitude  that you specify in the 'll=' URL parameter.

2. Correct.  There is no way for software to sense that a scanned paper map has a trail.  The only way to see a trail on the Google aerials is if Gmap4 is displaying a data file.  (Some very prominent trails are actually visible on the  aerials if you zoom way in.)

3.  An excellent point.  The way to make really cool maps is by starting with your GPS track and then adding some more info to your data file.

GPX files give you some flexibility, KML files give you more, and delimited text files give you maximum flexibility to  make your map dance and sing.

The class is the 'Help' file.  Lots of hand holding in  there.

At some point I will implement a 'trip planning' feature.  You will be able to click the map to set draggable points, add text, see a trip profile, download a GPX file, blah,  blah.  I wrote most of the code last winter but there is still more to do.

12:33 p.m. on December 13, 2011 (EST)
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Ok, I got this thing figured out now.  FINAL REV.

Italianos/Lobo Peak Hike

1:00 p.m. on December 13, 2011 (EST)
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If you add &t=t2 to the end of the Gmap4 URL, then the MyTopo topographic map will be displayed when your map opens on the user's screen.

1:03 p.m. on December 13, 2011 (EST)
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I was wondering how to do that.  Thanks!

UPDATE:  It worked!

10:23 a.m. on December 14, 2011 (EST)
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Joseph, One hell of a system(?)  Not sure just what to call this, Program I guess.  I hope to be to figure some of this out this spring, way to busy right now.   And as for my first several big trips, The Wonderland trail, JMT, and the Pacific Northwest Trail, their are lots of KML files out there, will at least the first to.  So hopefully I will be able to use one of those. 

Although maybe Santa will bring me a GPSR for the holidays??  It would be great fun to add this to trail reports, and trail planning. 

Well now we are completely off subject, but that fine I love this site and all the useful information that comes my way!


11:17 a.m. on December 14, 2011 (EST)
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Now that you have a handle on making maps with Gmap4, here's an idea.

Some forums allow iframe tags in a post.  To control the security  risk inherent with iframes, I think most of those forums have a whitelist of apps that are allowed to use iframes in a post.

If the admins running this site are agreeable to allowing Gmap4 to run in an iframe, then anyone could  include a 'live' map in their post.  For example, a live map with your GPS track could be included in your trip report.

Here's an example from a thread that I started in my  'home' forum.  BTW, this thread has links to the latest beta code which includes my first attempt to add a geolocate feature.  I have more coding to do in order to improve your location on the map.  My  goal is to let you run Gmap4 in the native browser of a mobile device and find your location including making use of any GPS chip in your device.  However, you will have to be online for this to work.

I'll ask Rob to post the link

10:01 a.m. on December 15, 2011 (EST)
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Some more Gmap4 capabilities courtesy of Joseph E:

I’m sticking my toe in the mobile pond.  If you have a mobile phone or other mobile device then this beta Gmap4 code might be able to show your location on the map

1.  This only works if your device is online to the internet 
2.  You have to use a browser that complies with the W3C Geolocation standard. (You will get an error message if your browser does not comply.) 

Find you and display Google Terrain map: 

Find you and display MyTopo Topographic map: 

Display Google hybrid map of the world. After the map appears you can click Menu ==> Find me.  Note that the hybrid map type is preserved on the map that finds you. 

10:36 a.m. on December 15, 2011 (EST)
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The above beta code links that Rob posted (thanks!) only do a rough job of finding your location (assuming  your mobile device is online).

In particular, beta 163 does not make use of any info produced by GPS  chips in mobile devices.  I'm working on adding that ability.

1:51 p.m. on December 22, 2011 (EST)
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The Gmap4 production code is now version 2.3.  This is the first version that includes special features for smartphones and other mobile devices.

1.  Gmap4 can now find your location on the map.  This service will use some or all of:
*  Your IP address
*  Cell towers
*  Wi-fi hotspots
*  Any GPS chip in your phone or other mobile device

Simply open any map in your phone’s browser and then select Menu ==> Findme.  You can try this right now on your desktop/laptop just to see how it works.  However, your desktop/laptop location will likely not be very accurate since in many cases only your IP address will be used.

You can also build Gmap4 URLs that will automatically run the Findme feature when the map opens.  Simply include the parameter ‘findme=on’ in the Gmap4 URL.

Since Gmap4 uses the Google maps Application Programming Interface (API), this feature only works if your phone’s browser is online to the internet.

Also, because Gmap4 is a web application, you do not need to download or install anything in order to use Gmap4 on your phone.  To open Gmap4 on your phone:
A.  Open your phone’s browser.  (Remember, that browser has to be online.)
B.  Do a web search for Gmap4 - the first hit should be the Gmap4 homepage
C.  Select the link just under the homepage title.  That link opens Gmap4 and displays a map of the world.
D.  Select Menu ==> Findme

Of course you can save the Gmap4 URL as a bookmark in your phone’s browser.

Gmap4 does not save your location or report it to anyone.  For more details, please search the Gmap4 Help file on ‘mobile’.

2.  You can turn off the coordinates in the lower right corner

Turning off the coordinate display in the lower right will let you see more of the map.  You can toggle that display by selecting Menu ==> UTM - LatLng - Off

To open Gmap4 with that display already off, include the parameter ‘&coord=off’ in the Gmap4 URL

3.  Tweaking the mobile interface
Gmap4 is not a ‘native’ app for your phone.  Instead, the exact same code that runs in the browser on your desktop/laptop also runs in the browser on your phone.  Amazing!  But this means my options for improving the interface when running on a phone are somewhat limited.  What I can do fairly easily is add buttons.  However, each button would cover part of the map.

Question:  Are there any features of Gmap4 important enough that they should have their own buttons?  One obvious candidate is the ‘Findme’ feature.  Any others?

4.  The MyTopo maps now display ads in one corner.  That was not my idea!

The Trimble Company now owns the MyTopo maps.  As the 'price' for being allowed to continue displaying the MyTopo maps at no cost, Gmap4 must display Trimble's ad images when the MyTopo maps are on the screen.

Joseph, the Gmap4 guy
Redmond, WA

June 23, 2018
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